By S.C. Zuba
The king returns.
Yes, Paul Konerko is the king of the South Side.
White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams did it again. Last Wednesday, Dec. 8, Williams opened up White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s checkbook and brought back the team’s captain, Konerko, inking him to a three-year, $37.5 million deal.
After the White Sox signed left-handed slugger Adam Dunn, it looked as if the free-agent Konerko had played his last game in black and white.
In fact, when Konerko learned the White Sox had signed Dunn, he said he basically gave up hope for returning to the South Side.
“Someone texts me and says they just signed Adam Dunn, and my first thought was, ‘That was a fun 12 years.’ That’s it. It was a him or me situation,” Konerko told members of the media after signing his deal.
Now, Konerko is locked up with the White Sox, where he will likely finish his career.
Finally, a White Sox great will retire with the White Sox.
It’s no secret the organization messed up when they let Frank Thomas go. He was the face of the White Sox for more than a decade. He should have retired wearing No. 35 for the South Side. Instead, Thomas ended up playing in Oakland and Toronto before retiring in 2008.
The value of Konerko to the White Sox simply cannot be calculated. He is almost as important in the clubhouse as he is at his post at first base.
In a league that has very few captains, Konerko is the captain of the White Sox. He has earned the respect of the entire organization over his 12 seasons with White Sox.
Over that stretch, Konerko has hit .282 with 358 homers and 1,127 RBIs.
If you’re still not convinced of Konerko’s worth, spend 2 minutes in the White Sox clubhouse—you’ll see how the players gravitate toward him, how they respect and admire him. It’s as if he’s the grandpa of the team—the grandpa that can still hit almost 40 homers a season.
Konerko will undoubtedly produce on the field, but will also help develop the young talent the White Sox bring in. In two years, will he still be producing at the rate of a player deserving of more than $12 million a season? Probably not, but his value is so much deeper than what he does on paper.
He’s the team captain for a reason.
He leads. Others follow.
And he’s back for good.
Share your thoughts with S.C. Zuba via e-mail at email@example.com.
From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue